22/7 is headed in two different directions. On one side; the personal backstories of the idols and what drove them to accept the mysterious invitation to join the group. On the other side; 22/7’s progress as a group, and the ongoing mystery of what any of this is building up to. The first side of this equation is the one that’s been given most of the focus so far, and that holds true over the past two episodes as well.
Last week’s episode gave us Sakura’s backstory. Sakura herself is likely the most notable of 22/7‘s cast after its lead, simply due to being voiced by Sally Amaki. That episode showcased Sakura’s upbringing; split between Japan and America, and her relationship with her late grandmother, who she is named after. It was a touching, affecting episode (and hit us with the revelation that Sakura only has one year in Japan before she has to move back to America).
The only real complaint to be had about it is that it felt perhaps a bit typical for an idol series. That’s true of this week’s episode, too, but it does move the general plot forward while also giving us the background of another one of our characters. The previously oft-overlooked Miyako Kouno. Before that though, the first major plot development of the episode rides in. Our girls are commanded by The Wall to perform at a copyright-friendly equivalent of the Tokyo Idol Festival.
Panic At The ITF
We don’t actually get to see their performance yet. However, they absolutely bomb an often overlooked part of being a successful idol unit; stage banter. In general, Japanese idol fans expect idols within a unit to actually be friendly with each other (or at least be able to fake it). So when our girls are asked some light questions by the stage MC and can’t answer them, they get crickets in response. Here is where the story turns to Miyako, who comes up with the idea to throw a small house party at her dorm.
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Specifically, an okonomiyaki party. If you’re unfamiliar, an okonomiyaki is a Japanese food. It can be perhaps best described as the midpoint between a pancake and an omelette. It’s also the central metaphor of this episode, but we’ll get on to that.
A clever directorial trick is employed a few times, here. A scene will happen. Miyako will say or do something, and it will match cut to a flashback of her doing the same thing in a different context a year earlier. The picture we get of Miyako’s family is pretty clear. It’s a large one, and they all clearly love each other a lot, but it’s dysfunctional. Miyako, as well as her mother, seem to deal with this via a markedly unhealthy dose of coping humor.
Miyako’s wish, we’re told, is not actually to be an idol. Instead, her aim is to become a fashion designer. We even see her bringing it up with her guidance councilor at her high school. She sidelines her own ambitions, focusing on helping her mom take care of her six(!) siblings. That’s not all, the divorcee thing comes up again. We even see Miyako find her mom crying in her sleep, having apparently tried to get in touch with her first ex-husband, Miyako’s father.
This is all pretty sad. Though perhaps even moreso in that it’s not a scenario that it’s difficult to imagine happening to a real family. Miyako’s lucky break comes from an envelope, just like Miu back in episode 1. Even though being an idol isn’t her main goal, her mother saves up enough money to move her out to Tokyo anyway. Miyako’s family definitely love and support her, dysfunctions aside.
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She resolves to use her fame to help hunt for her long-missing father. This particular arc ending ambiguously for the time being.
In the midst of all this, the show cuts back to the present a few times, emphasizing how Miyako’s little party is helping to forge 22/7 themselves into something of a found family.
There’s a surprising amount to consider here, but what’s a bit frustrating is that the show has yet to really commit to any specific direction for it. Is 22/7 interested in examining why people are willing to suffer for art and fame, like say Revue Starlight was? Is it interested in solving its broader mysteries at all? Playing your hand this close to your chest is a gamble for a show that’s only a single cour long. We can only hope it’ll pay off.
The good news is that for the many unanswered questions, 22/7 absolutely kills in character writing. The economy here is fascinating. We get a lot of personality from even small, brief asides. This episode’s stand out example being the “booping” scene, where Miyako playfully bothers some of her groupmates.
This gets a killer reprise later in the episode, where Miu uses it during another bit of stage banter and, true to life, the crowd absolutely loses their minds.
There are two small things near the end of episode 5 that hint at where 22/7 might be going. Just before the ED song kicks in, Miu says this while watching her bandmates, seemingly musing to herself.
The scene then cuts to a middle-distance shot of the night sky. A piece of visual foreshadowing that could honestly mean just about anything.
Then, immediately after the ED, we see The Wall pumping out several of its card orders in a row. Presumably, this is what the next episode will involve, but to what end? Who can really say.
22/7 remains fascinating for its sheer dichotomy if nothing else. The trials and triumphs of idol stardom cast against the looming shadow of The Wall and its mysterious, opaque plans.
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